What is a teacher to do?
It is rare today to find a teacher who lectures for an entire class period. We have been trained in multiple intelligences, different learning styles, differentiation, and introversion vs. extroversion, and try to incorporate the needs of our students into every single lesson. In addition, those of us who work in schools with 85-minute-class periods know that any activity of that length is an exercise in futility.
Yet, how can a teacher engage her students in an activity if they have never read the material?
The answer will not surprise you, as it is the headline of this post.
I give students reading quizzes every time I assign a reading. This practice has changed my classroom by both increasing the pace and enthusiasm for the course. Students who didn't read before now do; the students who have always read no longer have to sit through a watered-down discussion. The quizzes aren't impossible or terribly hard. I don't expect that students have mastered the material on their own. However, to succeed, students must achieve a basic understanding of the text.
Before you balk, please remember, the goal isn't to put undue pressure on teenagers by adding high stakes assessment. But like it or not, students are motivated by grades. Perhaps I can inspire them to develop a love of literature, but first they need to read it to fall in love.
I must give credit to an article by Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel that inspired me titled, "Tests Make Kids Smarter. Let's Give Them More." While I don't agree with everything that he says, it did propel me in this direction.